World Leaders Committed To Long Haul In Yemen

The U.S. and its allies have agreed to pour in millions of dollars into Yemen but they say the government has to shape up first. That was the core of the message that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered to a meeting in London on Yemen. The group is trying to help stabilize Yemen, which is one of the poorest nations in the Arab world, and is struggling to contain al-Qaida.

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It's one of the Arab world's poorest nations, and it's now struggling to contain al-Qaida. NPR's Michele Kelemen is also here in London. She was at those talks on Yemen, and she has this report.

MICHELE KELEMEN: British Foreign Secretary David Miliband says the situation in Yemen has been on his radar for a while, but he decided to call an urgent meeting after an al-Qaida affiliate based in Yemen claimed to be behind an attempted airliner bombing in December. Miliband said everyone who came to his meeting on the issue agreed that counter-terrorism aid won't be enough to help Yemen contain this threat.

Mr. DAVID MILIBAND (British Foreign Secretary): The assault on Yemen's problems cannot begin and end with its security challenges and its counter-terrorism strategy. In tackling terrorism, it is vital to tackle the root - its root causes. In Yemen's case, these are many-fold: economic, social and political.

KELEMEN: Yemen is not only trying to contain al-Qaida, it's fighting a secessionist movement in the south and a rebellion in the north. And many experts say the civil strife is draining resources from an already impoverished country. Secretary Clinton said she heard a sobering report about the economic conditions in Yemen from the International Monetary Fund, and she urged Yemen to agree to an IMF reform plan.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (State Department): I personally believe that now is the moment for the Yemeni government to really step up and do what it has said it will do. It has an economic plan. It has a reform agenda. And it is time for them to implement that.

KELEMEN: Secretary Clinton came to London to discuss Yemen and Afghanistan, but she's also using her meetings here to talk with her counterparts about ways to break a deadlock in nuclear talks with Iran. A senior State Department official said that since the Iranians have not taken the U.S. up on an offer to improve relations, the U.S. made, as he put it, a reluctant decision to work on the pressure side. That means sanctions. The obvious targets, the official said, are members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Secretary Clinton has been trying to build up support for tougher sanctions step by step.

Sec. CLINTON: Diplomacy is often a very carefully constructed, constantly focused engagement, and it takes a lot of patience and it takes a lot of information sharing, and I think that's what's going on now. And the P5 plus 1 has been unified up until now.

KELEMEN: That is the permanent 5 Security Council members plus Germany, the group that's been trying to encourage Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. China has been uneasy about new sanctions, but Clinton didn't sound too worried when she spoke to reporters traveling with her.

Sec. CLINTON: Well, on Iran, I don't think there is a mind to change. I think that there is an openness. I think there is an awareness of the importance of the international community standing together with respect to Iran.

KELEMEN: Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov seemed to echo that, though he stopped short of endorsing new sanctions. He's quoted as saying the world can't wait forever for Iran to agree to international proposals on ways to end the nuclear standoff.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, London.

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